Thursday, June 01, 2006
With one notable exception. I think the Phillies are clicking on most cylinders. David Bell is always going to be a problem. But these days the Phillies real problem starts at the top of the order with Jimmy Rollins. As a lead-off hitter, J.Roll isn’t getting the job done. And he’s getting to be an anchor on the Phillies offense.
As I write this, Jimmy Rollins has a .255 batting average, a .317 On-Base-Percentage and a .394 slugging percentage. These are terrible declines for a player whose career averages coming into this season for those were .273, .328 and .414 respectively. J.Roll’s GPA has declined from a respectable .251 to .241.
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)
BB / PA (Walks per plate appearance): (BB / PA = .BB/PA Avg)
SLG (Slugging Percentage): Power at the plate. (Total Bases / At-Bats = Slugging Percentage)
GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
When the season began the attention was squarely focused in on J.Roll’s pursuit of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Since J.Roll’s pursuit ended just a few days into the season, he’s really been on a tail-spin offensively. The decline in J.Roll’s skills has impacted the Phillies team offense: Phillies lead-off hitters (i.e., J.Roll, who has 220 of the Phillies 243 plate appearances – 90% – hitting in the #1 slot) rank thirteenth of sixteen NL teams in terms of OBP (.317, far behind the Cards at .394), and are seventh in slugging percentage (.386). Phillies lead-off hitters also rank twelfth in terms of walks-per-plate appearances (BB/PA) at .078. The Phillies lead-off hitters aren’t working the count: we rank fifteenth in terms of pitches per plate appearance.
Drawing walks has always been a problem for J.Roll: he isn’t that patient at the plate historically, though to his credit he has worked on it in the past (e.g., he trained with Tony Gwynn in the 2003-2004 off-season) and has seen his strikeouts decline (108 in 2001, 103 in 2002, 113 in 2003, then 73 in ’04 and 71 last year).
I think that his pursuit of DiMaggio has ruined his skills as a lead-off hitter: the pressure to get that hit each game has led to a break-down in J.Roll’s discipline at the plate. Instead of taking a 3-0 pitch to draw a walk, he’d swing and put the ball into play. I think that the pursuit of DiMaggio got to J.Roll’s head and as a result he’s become a free-swinger at the plate. That’s not what this team needs. This team needs someone who will accept a day where the stat line reads: 0-3 with two walks.
The solution? I oppose dealing J.Roll. He’s got a good glove. And once he gets some patience back he’ll be the same old player we are used to. I say demote him to seventh or eighth in the order and bump Aaron Rowand to lead-off hitter. Rowand is hitting well, he’s getting on base, he’s got some pop off his bat … he could give Utley, Abreu, Burrell and Howard a potential base-runner they could work with. Right now I think the best thing for J.Roll is to regain his swing and protect David Bell and Mike Lieberthal / Sal Fasano at the bottom of the order.
I got a lot of posts yesterday on this subject and I want to quote "Mike":
When Jimmy is on, he is on, and he posts a .440 OBP and when he's not, he's not and posts a .310 OBP. Take it for what it's worth, but he is like the tide - he goes up and down and will continue to do so
I think that Mike is absolutely right. When J.Roll is on a roll he is probably the best leadoff hitter in the game with his unique blend of speed and power. The problem is that when he is not he's an anchor at the top and above all, I think that a leadoff hitter needs to be the model of consistency because he dictates a lot of what the hitters behind him can do. Until J.Roll gets on a roll, let's bump him back and make him earn the right to hit as #1. Maybe the challenge will wake him up.
More tomorrow on other subjects. If anyone has any additional thoughts on the idea that smaller parks help teams defensively, let me know. I'm very intruiged by the subject.
Bonafide lead off hitters are very difficult to find. Let me explain why. Someone like bobby abreu posts great obp numbers for 2 reasons. One, because he has excellent plate discipline. Secondly, because he is one of the best outfielders in the game and pitchers tend to pitch around abreu (or any slugger for that matter) to avoid the homerun. Power brings along walks because of the harm it can do.
A bonafide leadoff hitter is the last person the pitcher wants to pitch around because of his baserunning abilities. Therefore, a leadoff hitter who can post a .400 obp is a gem because he has to earn it by hitting with a high average or be a good enough hitter to fight pitches off until he can draw a walk.
If you look at last year's numbers as I did (over at Balls, Sticks, and Stuff, look up "The Jimmy Rollins Project"), it seemed to me that J-Roll had to get demoted or really challenged not by fans but by people close to him to really get going.
And yes, for the sake of lack of confusion, I will now sign my posts as "Mike H."
Also, did you get a chance to look at my email? i sent it to citizensblog@gmail...